BZBI, where you belong

Professional Staff

    Lynne Balaban, Executive Director

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    Lynne has more than 30 years of experience in nonprofit management. As a seasoned Executive Director she has held leadership roles in synagogues, JCC’s and other non-profits in South Florida, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Providence, Los Angeles and Columbus. She most recently served as the Executive Director of B’nai Aviv in Weston, Florida. Prior to that she was the Executive Director of Congregation Or VeShalom in Atlanta, Georgia.

    A Pennsylvania native, Lynne holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Delaware and a Masters Degree from Gratz College. Lynne has a breadth of program development and strategic planning experience coupled with a passion for Jewish education. She supports and believes in Tikkun Olam and the importance of developing employees and volunteers.  She is dedicated to building inspired and productive relationships with our members and the community, including you!

    As an active member of NAASE (the North American Association of Synagogue Executives), she currently serves on their board as Membership Co-Chair and Welcoming Chair. She is also on the Philadelphia Jewish Federation Women’s Philanthropy Board and a member of the Development Committee for Hillel at the University of Delaware.

    Lynne notes, “BZBI is a synagogue with a proud past and an even more promising future, and I look forward to being a part of it.”

    David Haas, Communications Coordinator

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    David Haas is BZBI’s Communications Coordinator. He moved to Philadelphia in January 2020 and comes to us by way of the Hebrew Free Loan Association of San Francisco. There, he had a diverse portfolio of responsibilities that included communications, marketing, fundraising, and outreach. He also serves in a volunteer capacity as a strategic communications adviser to the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. David has a BA from the University of Michigan and a Master’s in Human Resources Development from George Washington University. His background includes a long career as a project manager on major government technology projects, but his focus is now on supporting the Jewish Community and giving back. David is married to Rabbi Valerie Joseph and has two sons, Evan and Jacob.

    Liat Kovnator, Director of Membership Engagement and Outreach

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    Liat is a performer, producer, and arts educator whose passion lies in cultivating spaces that support creative and philanthropic endeavors. Originally from Southern California, she ventured to the east coast where she graduated with a BFA in Musical Theater from The University of the Arts. Since then, she has performed in various productions throughout the tri-state area. When she isn’t performing, she loves teaching voice and theatre to kids, and producing music-based events for her theater company Chickadee Theatre, with her friends. Liat is excited to return to BZBI after teaching in our preschool from 2018 to 2019, as it will give her the opportunity to collaborate with others in the Jewish community, and have a safe space to create original events that are meaningful.

    Phyllis Kramer, Temple Administrator

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    Phyllis Kramer is our Office Manager and longest-serving employee. Phyllis is the face that greets you as you come into the office, and the person most likely to know who you are and how you are connected to BZBI. She has her guiding hand on our events, programs, kiddushes, congregational announcements, and life-cycle events. Little happens smoothly without Phyllis’ care and attention to detail. She is a proud mom and grandmother.

    Leslee Schwartz, Accounts Specialist

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    Leslee Schwartz is our Financial Account Specialist addressing the day-to-day financial transactions for our members and vendors. She works closely with the treasurer and finance committee to help insure the accuracy of our financial statements. She is the go-to person for questions about your account and can easily update any information in your synagogue files. Leslee manages employee benefits and payroll for BZBI. She is a Center City resident and a former school teacher who has taught part-time in our religious school.

    Shayna Flink, Torah Academy Coordinator

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    Shayna Flink is the coordinator of BZBI’s first Torah Academy where congregants learn to read Torah. She also works at Perelman Jewish Day School where she plans and implements family programs, as well as consults with the admissions team. Shayna has been tutoring Bnai Mitzvah students at BZBI for the last 5 years, and it brings her immense joy to teach others the skills of reading Torah and leading services. Shayna has a Master’s Degree in Special and General Education from Bank Street College, and was working as a learning specialist at Perelman Jewish Day School prior to having her twins, Zev and Ruth, both of whom currently attend (and love) BZBI’s preschool.

    Gedalia Penner-Robinson, Torah Reading Coordinator

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    Gedalia Penner-Robinson is the Torah reading coordinator at BZBI and a 2nd year student at the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of JTS. Before cantorial school, Gedalia was a resident at Yeshivat Hadar’s Rising Song Institute in Germantown, where he studied the art of communal song-leading with Joey Weisenberg. He has previously held the position of musical director with Y-Studs A Cappella, a professional group with millions of views on Youtube and singing engagements around the world. As a song-leader, Gedalia is passionate about breaking down the construction of “professional singers” and “everyone else”, believing instead that everyone’s voice belongs out in the world, and that music can simply be every individual’s loving and effortless relationship with the songs and sounds of their unique life experience. Gedalia currently lives in Mt. Airy with his husband Caleb and dog Booker.


    Sara Dasher Goldfuss, Director of Early Childhood Education

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    Sara is a passionate Early Childhood Educator with years of experience teaching young children and coaching parents and fellow educators. She has taught at Germantown Jewish Centre and Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, was a Tribe 12 Fellow in 2015, and an administrator at Society Hill Synagogue before joining BZBI in January of 2020. Sara, her husband Jamie, and their 4 children Izzy, Yaffa, Toby, and Adar are all proud Philly natives.

    Melanie Fine, Early Childhood Education Programs Coordinator

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    Melanie Fine previously worked as an assistant teacher in our Early Childhood program, and she is thrilled to transition from her role in the classroom to a role as an administrator. Melanie graduated from the University of Delaware in 2018 with a degree in Interpersonal Communication. Prior to starting her career in Early Childhood Education, Melanie worked as an administrator for a restaurant in Philadelphia assisting with marketing and event planning. Melanie is so excited to continue working with children while supporting the BZBI community as an administrator.

    Rabbi Max Nissen, Director of Youth and Family Education

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    Rabbi Max Nissen joined our staff in July 2019 as our Religious School and Youth and Family Services Director. Rabbi Max comes to BZBI from Congregation Beth El (Bethesda, MD), where he served as the Assistant Education Director and head of the Upper School. He also served as the rabbinic intern at the Park Slope Jewish Center (Brooklyn, New York) and as the rabbinic leader of Fitzgerald Hebrew Congregation (Fitzgerald, GA). He believes in empowering his students and their families, partnering with them to create meaningful Jewish experiences that create community, foster personal growth, and contribute to a better world.

    Rachel Beck, Teen Program Coordinator

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    Rachel Beck is passionate about supporting young people to be empowered change agents in the world, as an arts educator, community organizer and Jewish educator. She has a background in visual art and education, and received her BA from Oberlin College. Rachel has previously worked in the Early Childhood Education Program at BZBI and at an after school program in West Philly, where she has lived for 10 years.

    Rachel is a community leader in POWER Interfaith, and a member of Tzedek Lab, a national network of leaders mobilizing the Jewish community against racism, antisemitism, and white supremacy.


    Joel Chew, Maintenance Lead


    Joel Chew is the lead person in our Maintenance Department and is charged with the general maintenance of the building, facilitating set-ups for classes, meetings and services, and ensuring that the building is accommodating to our congregants and visitors. He is the person who makes sure it’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Joel has been on staff for 11 years and helps make BZBI the welcoming place it is.

    Brian Johnson, Senior Maintenance Expert


    Brian Johnson is our senior maintenance person. Brian has worked for BZBI for 12 years and is an expert on the facility and the nuances of our classrooms and meeting spaces. He makes sure the building is prepared for the next day’s programs and ensures its cleanliness each evening. He secures the building at the end of each day and is the smiling face that wishes those here late in the day a good evening.